Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, says the number of Jamaicans to be vaccinated in the second quarter of the year, when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, has increased from one per cent of the population to five.
“Initially, it was one per cent that we would receive in the second quarter, but this has now increased to five per cent and what you will find is that as more vaccines are approved, more manufacturing occurs, and the numbers may change,” she said.
Dr Bisasor-McKenzie, who was speaking at a virtual press conference at the Ministry of Health and Wellness over the weekend, pointed out that the vaccine is being made available through the COVID-19 Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility), and that 16 per cent of the population will be vaccinated this year.
Jamaica is among the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states on whose behalf a downpayment has been made by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for equitable access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
With regard to the roll-out of the vaccine in the country, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton had previously explained that the projected schedule is to have a vaccine ready to give to about one per cent of the initial 16 per cent of the population by April 2021, with another three per cent by mid-2021 and the remaining percentage by the end of 2021.
He had further indicated that the intention is to prioritise vaccinating the country’s health workers, who are at a very high risk of acquiring and transmitting the virus, as well as the older adults, who are among the most vulnerable to have adverse outcomes and deaths associated with COVID-19 infection.
In the meantime, Dr Bisasor-McKenzie is reassuring the public that the vaccine that will be approved for use in the country is safe and there is nothing to fear.
“The development of a vaccine usually takes a long time, but I want you to appreciate the concentration of resources that have been put into the development of these vaccines over the last year, and pretty much what you would have seen done is several years of work that would have been carried out in a short period,” she said.
“So, what you see now is a culmination of those efforts. I want to reassure the public that once the vaccines have been approved and they have been investigated, and we have seen the results of the trials, you are going to have a vaccine that is safe and effective,” the CMO added.
She emphasised that people must have confidence in the process, because “it is very important that especially our vulnerable population be vaccinated as quickly as we can get the vaccines here.”